Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nigeria’s Homegrown Terrorists

Project Syndicate
6 October 2011 (date?)

Ike Okonta

LAGOSAbuja, Nigeria’s sparkling new capital, is a city under siege. In August, Boko Haram, a shadowy and violent Muslim sect operating in the northeastern part of the country, bombed a building housing staff of the United Nations in the central part of the city, killing 23 people and seriously injuring 86. It was Nigeria’s first suicide bombing, [actually, the second – after the June attack on the Police Headquarters- DL] and the audacity and ferocity of the attack have thrown government officials and citizens alike into panic mode.


Ordinary northerners still believe that President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from the Niger Delta in the south, cheated their hero, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general and former head of state, in last April’s elections. More than 800 northerners died as enraged youths took to the streets in protest.

Moreover, unemployment and poverty rates are higher in Nigeria’s north than in other parts of the country. A powerful and wealthy feudal elite that has maintained power for two centuries through a mix of authoritarianism and religious sentiment now feels embattled following its loss of power in Abuja and, with it, the means to dispense patronage to formerly obsequious followers.

Given all of this, it is perhaps not surprising that impoverished and restive northern youth are joining Boko Haram in droves. The increasing sophistication of the attacks on public buildings has led to speculation that the sect is linked to international terrorist networks, probably Al Qaeda in the Maghreb or Al Shabab in Somalia. To make Boko Haram appear more potent, its members play up this alleged affiliation, and even claim to have the support of “important” people in the northern part of the country.

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